Carved into volcanic rock and surrounded by milky, geothermal waters, the Retreat at Blue Lagoon delivers pandemic pampering and Nordic Zen. Olivia Palamountain reports

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon was the first five-star hotel and spa to open in Iceland, in spring 2019, situated on a private inlet of the UNESCO Global Geopark.

Built into and around the geothermal Blue Lagoon, it features the subterranean Retreat spa, 62-suite hotel and a fine-dining restaurant.

The focal point of the property is, of course, the lagoon. Discovered by chance, it was first revealed when a neighbouring geothermal plant was being built in the late 1970s, disrupting an underground water source.

Today, it is now Iceland’s top tourist attraction, with the mineral-rich water renowned for its powerful healing properties, used in skincare lines to treat conditions such as psoriasis.Retreat at Blue LagoonThe Retreat has been brought to life by those who originally developed the site. “We’re proud to finally be able to share the Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland with the world,” said Grímur Sæmundsen, founder and CEO of Blue Lagoon Iceland. “Our team and partners have worked extremely hard to bring this luxury experience to life…”

Guests are welcomed by individual hosts who manage itineraries and provide insight into local culture, such as sighting the Northern Lights.

Each of the 62 suites features a minimalist aesthetic designed to usher in the dramatic terrain beyond with floor-to-ceiling windows and “human centric” lighting set to mimic the phases of the sun.Retreat at Blue LagoonArranged on two levels, the lower level suites feature private terraces that melt into the lagoon, while upper suites overlook the mossy landscape from private balconies, enjoying views that change with the weather and the light.

The Retreat Spa (available to both guests of the Retreat and day trippers) is built into an 800-year-old lava flow on the south shore of the Blue Lagoon and features a steam room, a cold well, treatment rooms and a restaurant, plus access to the lagoon for signature in-water massages.Retreat at Blue LagoonExclusive to the Retreat is the Blue Lagoon Ritual, a sanctuary of interconnected chambers where guests can play with three different properties of the geothermal seawater – silica, algae and minerals – and use them as face and body masks.

The Retreat’s Spa Restaurant is a casual spot where guests are encouraged to dine in their spa robes, feasting on seasonal fare including ceviche of prawns, scallops, and arctic char, carrots with chickpeas and fennel and a daily sushi plate.

Healthy drinks – shots of thyme and crowberry or algae, beetroot or cold-pressed kale juice and skyr smoothies – are also on the menu.Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Moss RestaurantOver at Moss restaurant, Icelandic cuisine is showcased through local produce and pure seasonal and regional ingredients. The menu highlights the likes of hand-dived scallops, reindeer sourced by a hunter from Eskifjörður and pearl barley from Vallanes, an organic farm and one of the northernmost places on earth where grains are cultivated.

Moss Restaurant also features a ten-seat Chef’s Table made of lava rock that was quarried onsite, and the Wine Cellar, which was built into a cavern of lava that erupted in 1226.Retreat at Blue LagoonIt’s not the only rocky, subterranean hotel out there. Portugal’s Casa Na Terra, a bunker-style underground house is available for private rent, and La Dimora di Metello in Italy is a boutique hotel in an ancient Italian cave dwelling.

Iceland has recently announced that it will offer free Covid-19 tests for arrivals between December 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, in a bid to replace quarantine rules and encourage tourism. Read our review of the country’s airport testing regime here.

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